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Power use in today’s technovironment

Submitted by: MikeC (Admin) on 24-Apr-09 06:01:07 PM

Whilst I like to think that PCs and the internet have substantially cut my travelling and communications cost, and that IT in general could be part of the answer to our climate and energy cul-de-sac, the sad fact is, our new ‘always-on’ techno-world is itself a huge consumer of energy.

There are more than 1 billion computers worldwide, and growing.

UK: power-consumption of desktop, laptop and handheld PCs is forecast to swallow more than half our energy use over the next ten years.  

Data centers: YouTube, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter…

One of the main villains: data centres.

In the UK alone there’s around 3 million sq feet of data-centre space – 2 million more than in 2002. Data centre space is roughly doubling every 5 years.

The London Olympics

Power demand in London’s Docklands is set to nearly double in the next seven years and according to Grid Computing Now!’s Ian Osborne, speaking on Radio 4’s ‘Costing the Earth’, the area is already experiencing almost daily “brown-outs”.

“There is no more power,” he says.

Apparently data centre companies are asking EDF for more power and being told to “come back after the Olympics”.

EDF would neither confirm or deny the claim to Radio 4 but Osborne says the power companies have had to reserve what little spare capacity they have to accommodate both the construction of the Olympics site, and the data centres needed to run it over the two week period.

Take a look at the video below taking a tour of a Google data centre installation – it “supports 10 Mega watts of IT equipment load.”

10 Mega watts is enough to power Woking.

Google, according to guesstimates (G is a bit coy for commercial reasons apparently), have about 38 data centres worldwide. In 2006 it built two computing centres in Oregon which spans the size of two football fields, complete with two cooling plants four-storeys high (NYTimes).

It is thought the company has two in the UK: one in Ireland, another in London.

Viewing pictures on Facebook

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Costing the Earth’ programme calculated the energy consumption required to view a 400 kilobyte picture by 20 Facebook users.

It found it comparable to switching on a 100 watt bulb for half an hour!

Now consider YouTube which commonly hosts videos weighing-in at more than 100 megs. And BBC's iPlayer where most shows are at least 30 mins long.

But it doesn't stop there: banks, councils, the Government, NHS, insurance companies and more... data centres rule.

Tour of Google data centre - Don't watch if energy conscious!

So what about the Energy Performance Certificate industry?

Quest, which has 85% share of the mortgage valuation processing market, said on the last podcast we did that its servers don't use much energy - but what does that mean?

And let's not forget others, such as xIT and the accreditation companies - how much attention to power consumption are they giving to their own data centres?

And Landmark? 

As for me, well over the last 12 months or so I've been switching off my monitor when leaving the room - even if just nipping to the toilet - and if stepping out of the building, I'll switch the PC off completely... and it has saved a surprising amount of money.

I've been tempted to buy another monitor too, but just can't see the sense when all it takes is a quick ALT+TAB to switch views.

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